Can Stress Cause Diabetes?

Did you know there is now an ICD10 diagnosis code for ‘Professional Burnout?’ Different from fatigue, which goes away with a nap, burnout is not that simple. It’s a high-stress body response from expending great amounts of energy over a long period of time without a reset. Eventually, this high-stress state becomes the norm, and reset is not only difficult, it’s impossible without intervention.

Symptoms of burnout include anxiety, often to the point of trembling hands, sugar cravings, poor sleep quality, and blood sugar issues, among others.

While many use the word “burnout” when referring to emotions, in functional medicine, it is an electrical term, when too much energy is going out with nothing restorative flowing back in. 

Picture a wire with a one-way current. There is no balanced flow.

The stress of quarantine is resulting in a rise of patients in burnout.

Working remotely, changing workloads, homeschooling, social isolation/lack of community, worries over yourself or family getting sick, and even the continued disruption in normal daily routines has many in a state of constant stress.

When your body gets stressed, hormones called Glucocorticoids are produced by the adrenal glands. One of them, Cortisol, should be the highest first thing in the morning, to combat the stress of overnight fasting and to get the body ready for the day’s activities. It should gradually decline throughout the day, being lowest at bedtime and through the early night. Its gradual rise in the pre-dawn hours is what naturally wakes you up in the morning. In burnout, production levels are off.

What Does This Have to do with Diabetes?

Aside from initiating the body’s fight-or-flight response and playing an essential role in immune function by mobilizing the body’s defenses against infection and fighting inflammation, cortisol is also responsible for maintaining adequate blood levels of glucose. Because the brain gets most of its energy from glucose, this is an important task. When you’re stressed all the time, these body processes suffer.

Chronic, excessive stress (emotional or physical burnout) can cause the adrenal glands to become exhausted so that they can no longer produce adequate cortisol. Low cortisol levels lead to low blood glucose (hypoglycemia), excessive fatigue, and increased susceptibility to infection. See Adrenal Dysfunction for more information.

Constant emotional, physical, or mental stress, excessive intake of alcohol (more than one glass of wine per day), and even minor amounts of sugars and refined carbohydrates can lead to insulin resistance, which in turn can increase levels of cortisol. This can create symptoms of high blood pressure, joint pain throughout the body, insomnia, restless legs, aging rapidly, loss of muscle tone, and weight gain through the middle of the body.

If very high Cortisol levels are left untreated, it can lead to sudden death through cardiac arrest. This is historically proven. There is always an influx of cardiac disease after a collective stressful time, including previous pandemics. 

The good news is that burnout can be corrected, stopped, and reversed naturally without using any drugs. It is just a matter of finding your starting point.

While there is no crystal ball, someone with the knowledge, resources, and dedication to finding that starting point is sometimes needed to work with you  — to listen to your story, run the right functional labs, and use that information to design a personalized plan tailored to your body’s chemistry, genetics, and hormones.

Infinity Wellness Center is here for you.

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